Australia shouldn’t have a big population: Gillard

June 27th, 2010 - 6:28 pm ICT by IANS  

Kevin Rudd Melbourne, June 27 (IANS) In an apparent policy shift on Australia’s ever-growing population, mainly due to immigration, Prime Minister Julia Gillard said she does not believe in a “big Australia”, but supports the idea of controlled immigration for a population the country can support.
Breaking away from the policies of the Kevin Rudd administration, Gillard said the nation should not “hurtle down the track towards a big population”.

“We will still have an approach about getting the migration settings right, about meeting our needs for skilled labour, but I also want to see us do it sustainably,” the prime minister said.

Australia’s population was predicted to rise from about 22 million at present to 35.9 million in 2050, if current trends in overseas migration and fertility continued. Immigration was the biggest contributor to Australia’s burgeoning population, according to the treasury’s inter-generational report, published earlier this year.

“I don’t support the idea of a big Australia with arbitrary targets of, say, a 40 million-strong Australia or a 36 million-strong Australia. We need to stop, take a breath and develop policies for a sustainable Australia,” Gillard was quoted as saying by the Age.

“I support a population that our environment, our water, our soil, our roads and freeways, our buses, our trains and our services can sustain,” the Australian prime minister said.

Gillard suggested the government could pursue different immigration policies for different parts of the country.

“Australia has this very difficult problem - parts of Australia are desperate for workers, but other parts are desperate for jobs. Having a smart and sustainable population, coupled with the right skills strategy, will help improve this imbalance,” she said.

“If you spoke to the people of Western Sydney, for example, about a big Australia, they would laugh at you and ask you a very simple question: Where will these 40 million people go?” she said.

Melbourne was predicted to be populated by seven million people, and Sydney would grow to more than 7.5 million.

Former prime minister Kevin Rudd had earlier said he favoured a “big Australia”, but later backed away from his comment by appointing Tony Burke as population minister to develop a strategy to contain it.

Gillard said Burke’s job description would now change to “send a very clear message about this new direction”, and he would now be known as the minister for sustainable population.

Even though Gillard said the population growth should be limited, she stressed that it was “not about bringing down the shutters on immigration”.

In 2009, migration added around 300,000 people to the Australian population, which has been growing faster than many developing countries, including the Philippines, Malaysia, India, Indonesia and Vietnam.

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